Member states of the WHO have established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to develop a so-called Pandemic Treaty, or new international instrument to guide how states prepare for and respond to future pandemics. At the first of two public hearings TAG submitted the following statement with six reasons why the new international instrument must explicitly acknowledge the right to science as a central guiding framework. Throughout the negotiation process, TAG has engaged the INB to urge a global recommitment to the human right to science. You can read our submitted statements on this page, which will be updated in the future.
WHO INB Second Public Consultation, International Instrument on Pandemic Preparedness and Response
INB prompt: “Based on your experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you believe should be addressed at the international level to better protect against future pandemics?”
TAG video response, September 29, 2022
My name is Gisa Dang submitting on behalf of Treatment Action Group.
Missing from the response to COVID-19 is the application of the right to science as enshrined in Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which obligates states to assert scientific progress and access to its tangible and intangible benefits as a human right.
WHO and its member states must address the following:
First, preventing future pandemics by ending pandemics of today. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis, and antimicrobial resistance must be addressed in any new instrument.
Second, reaffirming the right of affected communities to participate at all levels of science, from the design of clinical trials to the creation of evidence-based health policies.
Third, articulating state obligations for purposive development of science and technology for public benefit in ways that ensure the availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality of scientific goods, such as vaccines. This includes protecting the ability of scientists to access the means, methods, and materials of scientific discovery.
Fourth, upholding non-discrimination by enshrining the primacy of human rights over intellectual property protections. Exercise of IP during pandemics should not undermine the realization of the right to science and other human rights by privatizing public goods.
WHO Public Hearing Regarding a New International Instrument on Pandemic Preparedness and Response
Treatment Action Group Written Submission
April 13, 2022
A new international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response must explicitly acknowledge the right of everyone to benefit from scientific progress and its applications (right to science) as a central framework.
ICESCR Art. 15 (1) (b), (2), (3) and (4), and the 2020 CESCR General Comment 25 require states to develop, diffuse, and conserve scientific progress and its benefits.
Centering the right to science will ensure a new international instrument:
- Reminds states that preventing future pandemics requires ending pandemics today. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), viral hepatitis, and antimicrobial resistance, in particular, deserve concerted attention within any new international instrument.
- Enhances transparency in pandemic response by articulating a right of affected communities to participate at all levels of science, from the design of clinical trials to the creation of evidence-based health policies through e.g., community advisory boards and other engagement models.
- Defines ‘access’ as intangible scientific benefits (knowledge, information); the material results of scientific progress (medicines, vaccines, diagnostics); and the means, methods, and materials of scientific discovery.
- Articulates state obligations for purposive development of science and technology for public benefit in ways that ensure the availability, accessibility, affordability, and quality of scientific goods (e.g., diagnostics, vaccines, treatments).
- Invokes the obligation for international cooperation in science and health and turns solidarity statements into concerted action.
- Reiterates non-discrimination through the primacy of human rights over intellectual property (IP) protections so that exercise of IP during pandemics does not undermine the realization of human rights by privatizing public goods.